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Getting Started in Zmodeler v1.07b


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user posted image
Hello and welcome to this remake of my "Getting Started in Zmodeler" tutorial. As it has been a number of years since the old tutorial was written, it is apparent to me that it is incredibly out of date and flawed in a number of places, which is beginning to haunt me in the amount of time I now spend teaching people on MSN. As a result, I have decided to completely re-write the tutorial, as in the long run it should save me more work. So without further adieu, let's begin.
What tools do I need? Part one
Good question. A number of modellers prefer different tools, however for this tutorial we will be using tools I tend to use (trust me, they're all user-friendly if I understand how they work) and that they are all free...or at least, easily obtained without much hassle for free. Lets look at what different types of tool you will be needing for the moment. When you get round to putting your model in game, I will do a Part Two to this, as throwing too many tools at you lot at the beginning may get confusing.





3D Modelling application



These types of application are essential to this project as without them you cannot make a 3D model. There are a number of tools on the market for this job, ranging in ability and of course, price. Popular ones around here are 3DSMax, which is incredibly expensive but is seen as the market leader, and Zanoza Modeler which although limited in comparison to 3DSMax, is free to use. As a result, I will be using Zanoza Modeler v1.07b.


NOTE: I am not using Zanoza Modeler 2 for this tutorial until the latter stages (getting the model in game). This is because Zmod 1 is a lot more user friendly, plus it is what I am happiest using. A lot of people agree that is also handles certain aspects of modelling better than Zmod 2, such as mapping textures, but we will get onto that later.


Zanoza Modeler 1 can be downloaded here. Check out the Zmodeler website here.






2D Graphical Package



Probably the second most important application behind your 3D modelling package, is your 2D graphical package, such as Adobe Photoshop, JASC Paintshop Pro, and Corel Xara X to name a few. They are used for a number of roles from setting up your blueprints to making/editing your textures. Photoshop is the market leader in this field, and just so happens I have a copy of it. Trials for all programs listed can be found on the internet, and student versions are quite cheap to acquire.


A trial version of Adobe Photoshop CS3 can be found here. Although I am using Photoshop 7, it is similar enough for the parts I am showing.



Right, now that you have a way to make polygons and a way to make textures, you're effectively set! Lets jump in and make something!


Things to consider
Wrong. One thing I've learnt, not just for modelling, but for most things in life, is a little think I like to sum up in the 7 "P"s. These are:



Planning and







What I am trying to say is, don't go "OMG let's make a Ferrari 599 now!". No, what you need to do first is to plan a subject you want to model. Firstly, and the most important thing, especially when you are new to modelling, is to look for good blueprints. A number of good places to look for blueprints are as follows:


http://www.the-blueprints.com <-- An excellent site full of lots of great blueprints. I actively support this place when I can by leaving prints I find around the net for submission.


http://www.suurland.com/ <-- Nice site with some prints you won't find on others. Usually pay it a visit when on the look for prints.


http://www.smcars.net/ <-- Requires membership but boy is it worth it. A large number of members frequent this place and are determined to make sure this site has a lot of blueprints you won't find anywhere else. An excellent site. If this place doesn't have it, not many other places will.


http://www.google.com/ <-- It does sound silly, but it is possible to find prints you might not have been able to find anywhere else. Don't just try Google images either, you can sometimes stumble across some great sites with an excellent blueprint feautred on it, usually alongside some excellent photos that you can use for reference.


With these sites you can't really go much better. If you can't find what you're looking for then really unless you're adamant to model it and start looking up documentation and ringing up the manufacturers of the car, I'd just give in. There are a number of cars I'd personally like to model but I feel there's too little information on them to try. Still, the more practice you have, the more you can work with bad blueprints, and eventually scrap them completely and just use reference pictures, but trust me that's a long way off. I for one have been modelling 4 1/2 years now.


Right, what you are looking for when you are a beginner, are decent, high-res, large blueprints that ideally have 4-views (Front, Top, Left and Back) of a car that is generally very box-like in conscruction. Whilst this means you're now looking at your Volvos and old cars instead of your Ferraris and Lamborghinis..not quite so glamourous, but I'd rather a nice looking Volvo in my game than a shoddily done Koenigsegg.


For this tutorial I have an alterior motive to just producing a car. I plan to produce a car for the Myriad Islands Total Conversion Modification which you can find out more about here. This means I ideally need a 4-door car that is a knock-off of a real car. As a result my car won't exactly look like the one in the blueprints, but it will indeed be very close.


As a result, I have chosen this model, a Nissan Laurel C33 1990. Looks like this:


user posted image


Was about the best I could find to fit all criteria, plus it's something a little different. When you're choosing a project, you can either choose this print, or if you fancy something a little different, just look on the sites for good prints of a boxy car, making sure you do a little googling of reference images beforehand to check if you can find plenty of images of the model so you can check how yours looks.

Cutting up your blueprints
Now, just having an image of the 4 views isn't what we need to start off with. The way Zmodeler handles images is that they must be square, and of binary dimensions, for example







And so on and so forth. As a result, your cut up blueprints must be of these sizes too. Now, to avoid scaling issues and deforming blueprints and so forth, the easiest way to prepare blueprints is to crop the view that you want, then place it in the centre of a square of the size you need. Let me show you what I mean.


First, load up Photoshop or whatever program you are using. Check the size of the print you're using. This happens to be 659x333, so for the moment I'll just open up a canvas of size 1024x1024 to cover it. Now, I'll use the selection tool to choose one of the faces, like so:


user posted image


Now I'll copy it with Ctrl+C, and go to File>New again and make a new canvas, this one of size 512x512. Now I'll hit Ctrl+V to paste it into the middle of the document. This will now look like so:


user posted image


Now I'll go to File>Save, and save the image as either a bitmap (.bmp) or a targa (.tga) as Zmodeler recognises these image types and thus will display them.


Now that I have the front view saved at 512x512 but without being scaled at all, it's time to repeat the process for the left, top and rear views. Just go back to the 1st canvas, select and copy another image, and paste this onto another canvas that fits the size of the image...repeat for another image etc etc.


NOTE: When exporting the top image, make sure that the front of the car is at the bottom of the image, and the rear of the car is at the top, like so:


user posted image


You can do this by going Image>Rotate Canvas, then rotating it how much you need in order for the image to be completely vertical and orientated correctly.


Once all done, you're set to fire up Zmodeler and import them!


A zipped file of all my cropped images is available below, in case you just want to get on with modelling/have any issues.




Right, now that all that's out the way, lets get on with the Zmod side of things!


Edited by GTAuron
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Aah! What are all these buttons and things?
Yes, this is probably what you will think then you 1st fire up Zanoza Modeler. If you haven't done so already, please do so now. You will be greeted with a screen that will look a bit different from my current screen below, but all you need to do is re-arrange the toolbars a bit. I have moved mine like so, purely as I find it easier to work this way. Don't worry, you don't need to find any more toolbars by wandering through the menus at the top, what you see infront of you is pretty much all you'll need. So lets have a quick run through.



user posted image

Please click here to view the full-size picture


This is what you'll be greeted with. I have identified a few key areas which I will run through now.





1) The 3D view.


This view is the view you will be able to see what your model actually looks like in. The other 3 views are, in my version, front, top and left. These 3 views allow you to move parts of your model, usually as vertices, as you wish in 3-dimensional space. This will then be represented on the 3D viewscreen.


It is in these 4 views you will spend most of your time as this is how you actually make your model.





2) The objects list.


This is where all your objects will appear. These will be named depending on what you feel like calling them when prompted. It is in this view you can choose to view or hide some objects (to help you to see in a clearer detail what else is going on in the model). You can also select certain objects this way by right-clicking an object that appears here, and choosing "Selected". Repeat this process to de-select it. Whilst this is not the normal way to select objects, it can prove useful later on when you have a lot of objects obstructing your ability to select objects the normal way (That is, to select an object using Select>Single from the toolbar, then right-clicking the object in one of your windows).





3) The main toolbar.


This is where nearly all your commands will be given. Using the toolbar, your mouse can take on a variety of different roles, from making polygons, to deleting, moving, re-orienting, rotating and texturing them, to name but a few of the possible options. I will cover the toolbar in greater detail throughout the tutorial, explaining each command as it may be needed.





4) The Horizontal/Vertical/Depth locking buttons.


Say you wish to move an object upwards, but you do not want it to move it left or right even a millimetre. This is the tool you would use. When an option is depressed, the object selected will be able to move or rotate or be mirrored...etc in that direction. Once the button is clicked again and thus is no longer depressed, the object is restricted from any action in the plane of movement. Of course, depending on the view you are working on, the buttons will mean different things. For example, a resrticion in the vertical plane of movement, (the V button) in the "top" view will stop the object from moving backwards and forwards in relation to the vehicle, yet in the "left" view will stop it moving up and down in relation to the vehicle. Play with this tool to understand how it works, it is a vital piece of equipment.





5) Vertices/Edges/Faces/Objects toggle.


These 4 buttons are vital in the fact they affect what exactly you are working on. From left to right you have the "Vertices mode" button, the "Edges mode" button, the "Faces mode" button and the "Objects mode" button. The Vertices mode button allows you to work in what is called Vertices mode. This brings up red dots on the edges of any polygons (triangles) that you make, and allows you to interact with these red dots in order to edit the model. For example, you might want to add more polygons, and you do this by clicking 3 times to make 3 points, and those making another triangle, or you might want to move the red dots around to manipulate what the mesh looks like etc etc.


For example in faces mode here, I have decided to move the top-left hand vertex on this object. Note the red dot is what I can pulling around in order to edit it.


user posted image



Edges mode works in quite the same way, except this time you select an edge and move it. An edge is a line that joins 2 vertices. This mode isn't used as frequently as the others, in fact I hardly use it, but I suppose it can speed up time in places. There's nothing that this can do that vertices mode can't do, ableit vertices mode might take a little while longer.


Here I have decided to move an edge in the middle of the object like so:


user posted image



Next is faces mode. This mode works a little differently to other modes, but is widely used for thing's like texturing and applying colours. This is how you can select an entire triangle and thus edit what the surface of it looks like. This can also be called surfaces mode as a result. Simply point your mouse over the red dot that appears in the exact centre of each triangle in order to edit it.


Here I have selected 4 faces at random across the object.


user posted image



Lastly is Objects mode. Here is where you can edit the entire object in one go. An object is make out of one or more faces that are united together.


Here I have selected the entire object. Note, in Objects mode, you get no red dots on your model.


user posted image





6) Materials Editor.


Click the button and a menu will pop up like the one below.


user posted image


Now there a lot of options here, which I will explain later on in the tutorial as I go. Don't worry, you won't be using all the options. For the moment however, if you edit the scales with "R", "G" and "B" next to them, this will alter the look of the material using, strangely enough, the RGB scale. Play with this and you'll see how to make a load of colours.





7) Backgroud image mover.


This button, although not used often, is vital as it is usually needed at the beginning of most models. It is with this button depressed that you can freely move your background images, aka your blueprints, around the windows and thus make sure they are all nicely aligned. I will show you how to use this later once the blueprints are in place.







Now, to learn how to work well around the views. To work best in Zmodeler, A mouse with a scroll wheel is vital, however, it isn't compulsary. In the front, top, side windows etc, hover your mouse over the view, then use the arrow keys to move around, and the + and - keys on the num pad in order to zoom in and out. If you have a scroll wheel, your life is a lot easier as you can simply scroll up and down the zoom in and out, and the zoom will zoom to where on the viewscreen your mouse is placed. As a result, if you wish to view another area at the same magnification, just zoom out using the wheel, then move your mouse cursor to where you wish to zoom, and tadaa, the mouse will zoom to that point.


For the 3D view however, the cursors act as it you were moving the point where the camera is focused on around, so if you press down repeatedly, you're rotation point of the camera view downwards, so the model will appear to be moving upwards. Left click and drag to rotate the view. Right-click and drag to zoom in and out, or if you have a scroll-wheel, just scroll up and down using this in order to zoom.


A few useful shortcuts you might find useful at times also are:


"*" button on the num pad. This button will zoom the view you are currently hovering your mouse over the full screen. Try it out to see what I mean. Press "*" again to revert back to normal view.


Spacebar for selecting/deselecting the "SEL" button, known as "Selection Mode" at the bottom of the Main Toolbar. It's function will be explained later.


"/" for selecting/deselecting the "MUL" button, known as "Mutliple Mode" at the bottom of the Main Toolbar. It's function will also be explained later, though with a bit of playing, I'm sure you'll figure out how it works.

So How do I stick these stupid blueprints in game?
Lets get on with the real stuff. First things first, lets get these damn blueprints loaded.


Place your mouse in the top-left hand corner of one of the front, top or left views. You'll notice that a button will appear, along with a word telling you what view it is. Check that all these words are what you want for your views (most likely front, top and left...might depend on your blueprints). If they are not, click the button on a view you wish to change, and select another option from the list, like below:


user posted image


Once all that is settled, click one of the buttons again, say for the "front" view and choose Background>Image>Load Image. This will bring up a box like so:


user posted image


Click Add and locate the blueprint of the front of the car, so in my case, "front.bmp". Open this. Repeat this procedure of adding blueprints til all of them are added. Now select "front.bmp" and click OK.


user posted image


Lo and behold, it appears in the background on the "Front" window. Repeat this procedure for the other views, noting that now the images are already loaded, and so do not need to be loaded any more.


Once all images are in place, that the blueprints do not sit on the distinct lines running down the middle of each window. These lines are known as axes, and where all these lines meet (if you think in 3D, there are only 3 lines, not the multitude of lines shown) is the centre of the modelling area, and where the 3D view is told by default to rotate around. As a result, you will be wanting to model your car with the centre of it located at this point, which you might not be able to do where the blueprints are currently. This is where your magical "Background Image mover" (user posted image) button comes into play.


Edited by GTAuron
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So click this button, then click and drag inside the window where the blueprint is not quite in the centre. As you now see, you are dragging the image around inside this view. Once you are happy that is is where you want it to be, just let go. Move another image if you want etc etc


user posted image


...but when done, just press the same button again to exit this mode.


Now all your blueprints will appear to be lined up, so lets get modelling.


First things first, you cannot model polygons if you do not have an object into which to model them into. For polygon modelling, you will first be needing to make a surface, do a process which is called "extrusion" to extrude this surface, then create polygons to add onto this face.


As a result, funnily enough, the first command you will be looking for in you main toolbar, is Create>Surfaces>Flat.


user posted image


Once this is selected, find a view you wish to apply it to. For this model, I am going to start on the Bonnet, so as the Top view exposes the most of the bonnet, I will be starting in the Top view. What you need to do is to click and drag, as if you were trying to draw a rectangle. An outline will appear as shown.


user posted image


Once you let go, a dialogue box will appear, looking like this:


user posted image


Now, let me explain what everything means. The top box, currently highlighted, is the name of the object you are about to create. As I am too lazy to have an imagination, and too lazy to type out a name, I am going to leave it as "Surface". "Horisontal steps" (yes, mis-spelt) indicates the number of edges the model will have, excluding the 2 outer edges, in the horizontal plane. Vertical steps is exactly the same, just in the vertical plane. As a result, the 1st number will give you the number of rows minus 1, and the second number then numbers of columns minus 1. So, 2 of each will give me a 3x3 grid, 0 Horizontal steps and 2 Vertical steps will give me a 3x1 grid, etc etc. However, due to the way I like to model, I am going to choose 0 for both, giving me a 1x1 grid, or effectively, 2 triangles. Play with this option to see what I mean.


So, after choosing 0 Horizontal steps and 0 Vertical Steps, I have created an object of 2 polygons as shown.


user posted image


Note that "Surface" has appeared in the objects list, as I talked about earlier. Now you can try out some of the things I have suggested above, or we can carry on.


Now, take a look at the object in different views. Not a lot to see, except for maybe 3D view. This is because, as the command said, it'd create a flat surface. So lets add some shape to it.


We'll be needing to turn on Vertices mode (user posted image), as explained above. Now, we'll need Modify>Move from the main toolbar. As you can now see, you can happily move the vertices around one by one. Move them into a shape that'll be a good starting point. This is where prior research on how to produce a good polygon layout will be useful. Look around 3D modelling places, ask for wireframe pictures of good models, anything to help further your understanding of a good layout. The golden rule really is the "rectangle" rule. Try to arrange your triangles so they they appear like rectangles. Here is an example of what I mean.


user posted image


As you can see, although the model is made out of triangles, These are paired together to make rectangles. Rectangles tend to handle things like lighting and reflections a lot better than "Fanned" triangles, and thus are used to produce much better results. Here is what I mean by fanned triangles.


user posted image


Here, all the edges fan out from a single point, which produces a bad finish on the model. This is to be avoided where possible.


As a result, I have placed mine like so:


user posted image


Right, now that you have placed your 2 polygons where you want them, it's time to add a few more don't you think? Here we will be needing Create>Faces>Single. This command will automatically put us into Vertices mode, as we will be making new faces using vertices to plot the corners.


The key to a good mesh is to make sure there are also no gaps in it. This means you must not leave vertices in the middle of a mesh not connected to anything else. Always follow on using the same vertices. This will ensure a smooth model for lighting and reflections, but most of all, that there aren't any physical holes in the mesh.


user posted image


The one on the right is bad as the circled vertex is left without anything connecting it, it is just skipped by the next row of polygons.


Placed a Vertex badly? Use Modify>Move again to move it where you want, then carry on making polygons.



Edited by GTAuron
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Now, check the 3D view...you may notice it may be a little dark in places. The way to solve this, is to click Surface>Normals>Calculate, move back into "Objects" (user posted image mode, and click on your object.


Right, that's easy, I've got that, lets make a car....WAIT A MINUTE!


Notice, at the moment, we are only using one view that represents a 2-dimensional plane...but we're making a 3-dimensional model! That's where the other views come into play. Check the "Front" and "Left" views, whilst in Vertices mode. Note how everything is on a plane, and not rounded around the car as it should be? That's because we need to do the next step, and that's extrusion. Using Modify>Move again, you need to move the vertices in these other windows until they match the blueprints too! Let me show you.


user posted image


Here is a picture of our mesh in the front view. See the dots? We need to move them to where they should be. Now, this is where you need to pay attention in quite a few views. Look in the top view to see what vertex you will have selected in the front view. Move it to the correct position (Here I will click the "H" button to lock horizontal movement as I explained earlier) by moving it vertically upwards. Now check the 3D window to check the model is looking smooth. When moving the first polygon, it of course won't, so move all the polygons upwards til they are where I want them, like so:


user posted image


Moved one....aaand a small amount of time later:


user posted image


Moved them all. Note your blueprints might still be a little bit out at this stage. You can use this time to fine tune them. Remember, it's the user posted image button you'll be wanting.


So everything looks fine, lets carry on right? Unfortunately, it's time to wait again! It may look smooth, but is it really that smooth? Could it be better? You bet it can. For this, we will be needing to turn on a certain option in the 3d view, called "Flat Shading". To do this, click the button in the top left hand corner of the 3D view (Like you were going to add a background image to the other views) but this time we will be wanting Settings>Shade,Fill>Flat Shading.


user posted image


This will enable flat shading, which will look something like this:


user posted image


As you can see, tis looks far from flat, so it's time to use Modify>Move again, and move those vertices around til it looks a bit flatter, like this:


user posted image


Now if you wish you can turn Flat Shading off again using the same way you turned it on to admire how smooth your work looks, or you can keep it on. I usually keep it on as it saves messing about with turning it on and off every so often.


Now that you know how to make polygons, move them to where you want them, and re-calculate the normals so that the model has no dark patches on it, it's just a matter of making more and more car for the moment. Below are a few shots of me making the next part of the car as I go along.





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